In 2016, a year after purchasing the 90-piece “Portfolio Compleat,” by the feminist collective Guerrilla Girls, the Baltimore Museum of Art celebrated the acquisition with a retrospective of the group’s career. At that time, says director Christopher Bedford, works by women made up only a dismal 4 percent of the museum’s collection. So the BMA sold off five major pieces by white male artists and devoted the nearly $8 million raised to buying work by women artists and artists of color.
The museum had even loftier ambitions. This year, to mark the 100th anniversary of ratification of the 19th Amendment, which prohibits denying the right to vote on the basis of sex, it announced its 2020 Vision, an initiative focused on acquiring and exhibiting works by female artists exclusively. As Bedford says, “The only way to address and remedy the disparate biases of the past is to do something radical.”
To that end the museum has staged Icons, Zackary Drucker’s multimedia installation of trans narratives. It has also presented the work of figurative innovator Tschabalala Self and a collection of large-scale landscapes by Lisa Yuskavage—all of the shows are being extended into 2021. And to add further nuance to this fall’s political season, “Stripes and Stars: Reclaiming Lakota Independence” offers nine takes on the American flag by Lakota women from the late 19th century.
2020 Vision attempts to look back to see the present more clearly while keeping an eye on the future. “It’s commensurate with our broader commitment to correct art history into a true art history,” says Bedford.